We are beginning a new six-week series, and in these messages the Word of God will help us learn how to Shine. By that I mean we will see how to better follow and serve Jesus Christ as Lord of Lords and King of Kings.
Our main text for the six weeks is from Matthew’s gospel account where Jesus preached a sermon on a mountainside for those who wanted to be his disciples:
…let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:16b(NLT)
Jesus was using the words Isaiah spoke to the nation of Israel hundreds of years before to now challenge the people to personalize it.
“Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.” Isaiah 60:1-2(NLT)
Jesus wasn’t targeting a nation; Jesus was making this personal –if you want to please God, you will follow the Son, do what He did, and shine!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon understood that. Spurgeon was sharing with a class of ministerial students about the importance of making their facial expression harmonize with the sermon. When you speak of heaven, he said, let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of hell … well, then your ordinary face will do![ii]
Our ordinary faces are self-centered, looking-out for number 1, keeping our eyes on our own goals. Jesus says: Change that – shine; turn on the light for the sake of my Kingdom. After all, you’re salt AND light!
Isaiah and other prophets had preached about the darkness (of sin) which covered the land. Jesus also mentioned this in his Sermon on the Mount:
“In the land of Zebulun and of Naphtali, beside the sea, beyond the Jordan River, in Galilee where so many Gentiles live, the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” Matthew 4:15-17(NLT)
Later Jesus would call Himself the light of the world:
I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life. John 8:12b(NLT)
And darkness illuminated became the very problem we all have:
And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. John 3:19(NLT)
You might ask why Jesus would condemn everyone as loving darkness (evil) more than God. Well, there’s plenty of evidence on this one.
a. Scripture – Psalm 2:1 says: Why are the nations so angry? There’s so much anger in humankind; we follow Cain who killed his brother Abel. To say we aren’t people of anger is to deny interstate driving.
b. The Cross – When the light of God arrived, humans hung him on a tree with nails driven deep into his hands and feet.
c. Empty Tomb myths – Even after the resurrection, the most highly-documented miracle of all, humans still continue (in our darkness) to doubt, coming up with all kinds of stories about why Easter is a myth…the resurrection is a fairy tale.
We certainly could go on with statistics and video clips of reality TV shows if we wanted to wallow in the darkness of evil in our world. But suffice to say we humans have a big problem with our darkness.
The Great Light shining in the darkness is a reminder on this Epiphany Sunday of the Magi who followed the light all the way to Bethlehem and a child-king. The whole point of God’s incarnation was so that we would have an invitation to be saved – a way to deal with the darkness in us.
And then we could be appropriately cleaned-up by God himself, so that we might do the same kinds of things Jesus did, healing, helping, comforting, feeding and pointing the way to salvation for everyone who comes across our path. This is moving towards the light!
There are many instances and persons we could point to in order to get an up-close look at what it means to turn on the light of Christ, but for the sake of time let’s go with these six:
As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Matthew 17:2(NLT)
Jesus led Peter, James and John up on the mountain to encounter the Father. In that moment the disciples saw the Shekinah glory of God in the face of Jesus.
So…first priority – Jesus was ready to be used of God to draw others close. If you want to follow Jesus and serve Him, be willing to be used for the Kingdom.
When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord. So when Aaron and the people of Israel saw the radiance of Moses’ face, they were afraid to come near him. Exodus 34:29-30
When Moses came down from the mountain, it was after 40 days of seeking the face of God. Moses was waiting in prayer for God’s directions.
So…second priority – if you want to shine as you follow Jesus, get alone with God often – every day. Never lose sight of what God’s hand looks like moving in your culture. Be like my friend Donna, who told me once that she never says “amen”…she has so much to talk about with God, she just never cuts off the conversation!
Be willing to be used, stay in the presence of God, and then…
His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. Matthew 28:3(NLT)
This angel had witnessed the resurrection! I don’t know how your face could NOT be shining after seeing someone raised from the dead!
So what’s the priority lesson for us? Be willing to be involved in evangelism, being Jesus’ witness so others can be brought to a saving knowledge of Christ. When you witness someone pass from death unto life, your face will shine, brother!
Willing to be used, staying in His presence, witness, and…
As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. Acts 9:3-8(NLT)
Paul picked himself off the ground, and became one of the most obedient followers of Christ we read about. When God got ahold of Saul of Tarsus, he knocked him to the ground, read him the riot act and got his attention. But it was Paul the Apostle who got back up, blinded, transformed and seeing clearly for the first time in his life! God used this new man to write nearly 1/3 of the New Testament, start churches all over Asia Minor and Europe, and win half of the pagan Roman emperor’s Praetorian Guard to Christ.
When Paul got knocked to his knees he asked Jesus, who are you, Lord? That’s the priority lesson for us about shining: when life seems to knock you down, lift a prayer that asks: Who are YOU in my life today, Lord?
Be used, Stay in His presence, Witness, Bring Him your cares, and…
At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s. Acts 6:15(NLT)
Stephen was the first one chosen when deacons were needed in the early church. His face shone like an angel while being put on trial for heresy. He knew what that meant – if they crucified Jesus, Stephen was also in trouble. But he didn’t let it stop him from speaking up for his Lord.
Priority lesson #5 – is stand up for the faith even if it means death!
Useable, in constant presence of God, a witness, trusting and standing firm, and…
a. Philip was Broad-minded
Philip, for example, went to the city of Samaria and told the people there about the Messiah. Acts 8:5(NLT)
Philip went to Samaria, to people who were half-pagan and half-Jew. The Jews and the Samaritans were enemies; they had a rocky history. Good Jews wouldn’t even talk to a Samaritan. That was why the disciples were surprised when Jesus spoke to the woman at the well of Samaria.
Philip was more broad-minded than narrow-minded. Shining for Jesus will not include looking down on anybody.
b. Philip was Led by the Spirit
As for Philip, an angel of the Lord said to him, “Go south down the desert road that runs from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Acts 8:26(NLT)
Philip was led by the Spirit – into one of the toughest places you can imagine – a desert. Shining for Jesus won’t always be in a padded pew in an air-conditioned sanctuary. Sometimes the Spirit will lead you to rough, broken-down, and even dangerous places. Shine anyway!
c. Philip was Convinced
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?” So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. Acts 8:34-35(NLT)
Philip was convinced that the only answer he could ever give about his faith, God’s glory, or any person’s destiny was the truth of Jesus Christ.
Shining for Jesus’ kingdom does not mean preaching the latest philosophy, your own preferences, political insights or sweet little stories. Shining in the truest sense of being faithful to the faith once-delivered to the saints is to preach the Word, to tell people about Jesus, and call them to repentance so they can experience eternal life!
d. Philip was Consistent
The next day we went on to Caesarea and stayed at the home of Philip the Evangelist, one of the seven men who had been chosen to distribute food. Acts 21:8(NLT)
Shining is only possible when you’re the same person Monday through Saturday that you claim to be on Sunday. Philip’s home life was such that when Paul came to town he wanted to stay with Philip’s family. His reputation was without question.
A friend of mine once told me, give me five minutes with a man’s family and I’ll tell you if he’s a phony or not.
Jesus, Moses, the Angel, Paul, Stephen, and Philip – God-lovers who never had to tell anyone else that they were God-lovers; you could see it in their faces!
So…are you turning on the light?
A little girl got home from Sunday school, where she had been taught the verse: Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven.
She asked her mother, when she repeated the verse, what it meant. Her mom said: Well, it means that when you are good and kind and thoughtful and obedient, you are letting Christ's light shine in your life before all who know you.
The very next Sunday in Sunday school, the little girl got in a bit of a fracas with another student and created somewhat of an uproar—to such an extent that the Sunday school teacher had to go and find her mother to get her settled down a bit in the class.
Her mother was concerned when she got to the classroom and said, Sweetie, don't you remember about letting your light shine for the Lord before men?
The girl blurted out, Mom, I have blowed myself out.
Many of us have done just that. In our relationship to Christ, our light has gone out.[iii]
The bottom line:
Turn on the Light of Christ…shine! Don’t blow out your light!
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
[i] Title image: By Russell Brownworth [own work]
[ii] Illustrations Unlimited © 1988 by James S. Hewett. All Rights Reserved.
[iii] W. Frank Harrington, “The Love That Brought Him,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 51.